Have we all become too cynical to enjoy a stylish, romantic story that turns on the intelligence and sparkle of two very appealing actors?
"Up Close and Personal" is the movie critics love to hate. Apparently, it is also a movie audiences love to see. Certainly the negative reviews didn't bring 14,000,000 people to the theaters in the first week alone. That's pretty good for a movie that has been generally panned.
Perhaps this is yet another signal that Americans are sick of Hollywood's obsession with violence. This movie, along with "Mr. Holland's Opus," has given them a way to express their impatience. "Up Close" is an old-fashioned romance, a spiritual descendent of Hollywood's Golden Age, when movies had a hero and heroine, and audiences spent two hours hoping they would get together.
When someone dies in this movie, it happens quickly and cleanly, so the audience is affected by the loss of the human being rather than the now standard barrage of graphic violence. We are given time to care about the people we are getting to know. And that's the real key: we actually have a story here.
Tally Atwater (Michelle Pfeiffer), an ambitious blond who has waited tables and dealt craps in her hometown of Las Vegas, brings that questionable experience to her new job at Channel 9, Miami. Her boss, Warren Justice (Robert Redford), is a fallen Washington press corps hero exiled to the hinterland. Warren knows smart when he sees it, so he teaches Tally the rules of the trade while he falls in love with her.
Their courtship takes place on the causeways, balconies, rowboats, and beaches of Miami and the Keys. Their other life takes place in the television studios, where Warren recognizes and encourages Tally's determination to break onto the "A" team. It is Warren who finally convinces her to tell viewers the truth instead of the pablum that station bosses concoct for their listening pleasure.
That's a romantic notion, isn't it? An Edward R. Murrow view of a newsman's role, so out of date today that just being reminded of it brings a certain nostalgic pride that once upon a time such people roamed the globe looking for the truth of a situation. This movie is shot through with that kind of thing-- principles and constancy.
Michelle Pfeiffer gives Tally both raw ambition and the sense to listen to Warren when he sends her toward--dare I say it?--the truth and integrity of real reporting vs. the ugly path to being a blow-dried anchor. Robert Redford makes Warren a little seedy, very understated, with a core of values wrapped in steel.
Remember that Warner Bros. released "Casablanca" as a B- picture whose unexpected legend derives from romance and integrity. O.K., this isn't "Casablanca," but its two icons have the same kind of firepower. Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer know how to make love the old-fashioned way--with their eyes and their smiles as well as in bed. Have we all become too cynical to enjoy a stylish, romantic story that turns on the intelligence and sparkle of two very appealing actors?
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 500
Studio : Touchstone Pictures
Rating : PG-13
Running Time: 2h4m
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